Tribune editor, Chanute, Kansas
When Norma Maring makes a commitment, 50 years is the magic number.
When the Chanute Municipal Pool closed eight years ago, Maring retired as pool manager after 50 years.
This spring, after 57 years, she retired from Wentworth Military Academy in Lexington, Mo.
Before her husband, Keith, passed in 1988 the couple spent the school year teaching at the academy and returned every summer to manage the pool in Norma’s home town. Norma persisted in the routine.
In 1957, Norma began teaching dance and was a water safety instructor at the military academy. In 2005 she became Alumni Director Emeritus.
“Mom retired this weekend, saying ‘it’s time for someone younger to take this job, and anyone under 81 is younger,’” said Steve Maring, one of her four sons. “Throughout the years, people would say ‘You’re still here?’ She’d always reply with ‘They won’t let me graduate!’ and she’d laugh that laugh of hers.”
During the school’s graduation ceremonies Norma received the surprise of her life.
At the podium, it was announced, “We’ve got one more graduate.”
“The secretary put a cap and gown on me and when I turned around, there were my boys. I absolutely had no idea,” Norma said. “My jaw fell to the floor and came back up again. It was pretty special.”
On stage for her presentation of an honorary Associates of Arts degree were three of her four sons, Stan, Steve, and Ron, and a “practically adopted” cadet. Son Scott, in Idaho, was unable to attend.
In addition, Norma received a framed painting by an artist of the Norma Maring Alumni Hall named after her.
Norma was thrilled when one of the graduates after the ceremony exclaimed, “You’re a member of the Class of 2014.”
“It’s quite a school,” Norma said of Wentworth, listing graduates Ike Skelton, former U.S. representative from Missouri, and Bud Walton, brother of the founder of Walmart, Sam Walton.
“I went across country giving dinners for alumni and I met so many of them,” she said, noting the oldest was in 8th grade at the school in 1858.
Norma has moved back to Chanute because “this is home.”
“The swimming pool is part of my life and the first part of my life is over. It was glorious, and fantastic. I’m looking forward to the second half.”
She plans to swim a lot and wants to watch ballgames.
“Baseball, the swimming pool, little kids, these are my loves.” .